After wrapping up their early morning doctors appointments on Stanyan, I turned to my parents to ask what they'd like for breakfast. My father said, "chili". Though it was 8:30am, I gave it a shot and was suprised when someone at Memphis Minnie's answered my phone call. "Good morning, my dad would like to come over right now for a bowl of chili", I said. The man on the other end was nice as can be inviting us to come back for breakfast on the weekends, but during the week, MM doesn't open until 11.
Making up Plan B on the fly, I turned to my mother and said, "Didn't you say you wanted to check out the new Chinatown on Irving Street?" "Ok, I'm bored with Clement, let's go to Irving", she answered.
Soon we were cruising the eastern stretch of Irving with eyes peeled looking for a noodle house that might be open early. Suddenly Mom got very animated, "It's over there! I want to go to Yummy Yummy!" When I asked her how she recognized the name, she replied, "I read about it in the book you gave me", referring to _The Chowhound's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area_. I pulled up, but we struck out again, as it doesn't open until 10.
Continuing our journey to the west, I could see that Lam Hoa Thuan was open, and better yet, had plenty of parking on the street. At 9am, the cooks were busy stocking the bbq station in the window with fresh roasted meats. My mother nodded approvingly at the spacious interior with wide aisles.
Dad had been ordering oysters for nearly every meal this visit, so it was a big disppointment to learn that the oyster pancake was not available. We tried the "Nancy Berry special" aka #4 won ton preserved orange skin duck with (thick) egg noodle soup and #111 run free chicken (thin) egg noodle soup.
While we were waiting for our order, Dad spotted the barbecue pork come out from the kitchen to the front. For several months, he's been asking me to bring him "sun sin chuet lo char siu" or fresh out of the oven barbecue pork. Since my folks live 2 hours from SF, I haven't been able to pull this off. He saw his opportunity here and ordered a plate. I asked our waitress to request a soft piece with some fat that would be easier for him to chew. The meat was still warm from the oven and had that fresh roasted fragrance that my father had been craving. It was as tender and succulent as promised with a thin line of crisp fat on one edge. With a mild marinade, the taste of the sweet pork came through directly. A signature dipping sauce made of oyster sauce, duck drippings, and dried orange peel made it even more delicious. The heap of sliced char siu looked to be more than a pound's worth, yet we managed to polish it off.
Servings are big here -- the bowls of soup noodles were more than one person could eat. The plate of salt-poached chicken, hacked on the bone, was very tasty though with the characteristic toughness. The bowl of fine, wiry noodles garnished with a bit of fresh cilantro (just the leaves), pickled vegetable, and fried garlic had wonderful aroma but the chicken stock delivered less on the palate. We liked the duck stock much better. The wider noodles, also cooked al dente, matched the heartier character of this broth and the fall-off-the-bone aromatic duck leg.
My parents have been back home since Saturday and Dad's still talking about the sun sin chuet lo char siu. "The best I've ever had," he declares, while my mother clucks her tongue saying, "No, it's not, maybe the best in the last 10 years". It's been so long since I've had a good piece of char siu, I can't remember. In any case, it's GOOD.
Lam Hoa Thuan Restaurant
Chinese and Vietnamese Cuisine
2337 Irving St. (@ 25th Ave.)
San Francisco 94122
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